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Woody Allen, ‘Style Guru’? Costuming the middle classes, anti-fashion as aspirational fashion in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris

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This article examines costume and class in the films of Woody Allen, with a focus on anti-fashion as aspirational middle-class costume, using two recent and notable examples from Allen’s European-tour oeuvre. We consider the tension between the bland, yet curiously compelling costuming of the middle classes in Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and Midnight in Paris (2011) and explore how the mundane costumes of the bourgeoisie in these films are upheld in the press and by audiences as fashionable and desirable. We place our analysis in relation to the work of Gaines, Bruzzi and Warner to highlight the audience appeal of the costume that, whilst unspectacular, represents an aspirational dress code that is unrelated to specific trends or designers. Our argument is twofold: first, that anti-fashion in film is a trope of the middle class, which is limited in range and personality and is positioned in the narrow margin between bourgeois aspirational dress codes and expressive bohemianism. Second, we contend that the costume is both anti-fashion and, paradoxically, fashionable and desirable through association with Allen’s rarefied world of urban intellectualism. This article addresses a need to explore the lack of analysis in costume studies on middle-class costume in cinema.
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Keywords: anti-fashion; audience; bohemian; cinema; costume; fashion; middle class

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University for the Creative Arts Rochester

Publication date: December 1, 2014

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  • Film, Fashion & Consumption is a peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an arena for the discussion of research, methods and practice within and between the fields of film, fashion, design, history, art history and heritage. The journal seeks to stimulate ongoing research on these topics and to attract contributions not only from scholars researching in these areas but also from practitioners, who are traditionally excluded from academic debate. The journal thus aims to unite and enlarge a community of researchers and practitioners in film, fashion, consumption and related fields, whilst also introducing a wider audience to new work, particularly to interdisciplinary research which looks at the intersections between film, fashion and consumption.
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